Despite being a breakup album, American pop songsmith Charlie Puth's third album Charlie shines with enough shimmering pop gems to put a bittersweet smile on the face of the most brokenhearted. If one were to swap out the lyrics, most of these tracks could all be sunny radio hits; but with Puth's open-journal-confessionals at its core, the LP is imbued with a depth and vulnerability that match his emo contemporaries across the genre aisle. With each successive song, Puth grows ever more wounded and, by the end, you feel really bad for the guy. From the outset, he makes it clear that the pain is real, warbling like Post Malone and dropping an f-bomb on the wry "That's Hilarious." The rock-tinged "Charlie Be Quiet!" finds Puth giving himself advice with the benefit of hindsight, warning, "If she knows you're in love/she's gonna run, run away!" From the heart-rending "Smells Like Me" to the self-deprecating "Loser," he delivers more polished synth goodness with a heavy dose of sardonic wit and pain. The piano-based tearjerker "When You're Sad I'm Sad" pushes the heartbreak even further. Dialing back the swirl of emotions, Puth adds a bit of levity with the album's two hit singles, the breezy neon throwback "Light Switch" and catchy earworm "Left and Right," an international smash buffered by the presence of guaranteed hitmaker Jungkook of BTS. As he processes the trauma of a broken relationship across a dozen tracks, Puth finally finds some respite on "No More Drama," declaring, "I'm so glad I finally realized I'm better off without you." Ending on that resolute note, Charlie offers hope to both the singer and to sympathetic listeners, closing this very relatable chapter of his life with optimism hard-won through this catchy pop package.
by Neil Z. Yeung